Remembering John T. McNay

We were saddened to learn of the death of longtime AAUP leader John T. McNay on October 27. Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of the Ohio state AAUP conference, offered this remembrance of his life and career:

It is with immense personal and professional sadness that I share the news of the passing of former long-time AAUP Ohio state conference (OCAAUP) president Dr. John T. McNay on October 27. He was 66 years old.

John had been a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash for 23 years until his passing. With a focus on Cold War history, he was a prolific writer and passionate educator. His scholarship on US presidential decisions for peace elicited an invitation to speak at the prestigious Nobel Peace Institute in Oslo, Norway, which he accepted in 2016.

Prior to becoming OCAAUP president, John was an activist with his local union, UC-AAUP, and served a term as their president. During his time at the helm of UC-AAUP, he was an outspoken opponent of the infamous union-busting legislation Senate Bill 5. John even wrote a book about the SB 5 fight: Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). After the defeat of Senate Bill 5, John decided to run for OCAAUP president and served four terms between 2012 and 2020. 

As OCAAUP president, John was a dedicated and unflappable advocate for faculty, higher education, and union rights. John lobbied and testified to the Ohio General Assembly on numerous occasions and co-wrote higher education reports with me. He had many op-eds published over the years about the plethora of issues we face in higher education, most recently in regards to Senate Bill 83. He lent his support to AAUP chapters, unionization efforts, and individual faculty members facing issues.

Following his tenure as OCAAUP president, John was elected to the national AAUP governing Council, a position which kept him on the OCAAUP board in an ex officio capacity. He also served as chair of the national AAUP Committee on Government Relations. Just this past July, John and I presented at a session about political interference at the AAUP Summer Institute. Ever the historian, he gave a historical perspective on the origins of the attacks faculty face today.

In 2018, John had a successful kidney transplant, thanks to the generosity of his sister, Lynn. It gave John five more years of a good life that he may not have had otherwise. Unfortunately, it was just within the last couple of months that he faced complications from his anti-rejection medication, which ultimately led to his untimely passing. John's sisters Lynn and Pam were by his side at the time of his death.

John wasn't just my boss for many years. He was a close friend—more like family. He was beloved by just about everyone who knew him. A genuinely good person who used his talents for good. The AAUP, Ohio higher education, and this world are better off because of John McNay. John wouldn't mind that we are sad about losing him, but he would want us to honor his memory by keeping up the good fight.

Rest in peace, John. Thank you for everything. We will miss you, always.

Publication Date: 
Monday, October 30, 2023